Dissertation Project Plan

While I’ve suggested that people read one (or more) of the books that I’ve digested myself (check my Writing a Doctoral Dissertation page), one of the main things I teach my students is how to apply backcasting techniques to develop a project plan.

I was trained as a project manager, and I worked in that capacity for a number of years, so I understand exactly the kind of work that needs to be done to develop good project plans.

For me, mapping out my dissertation writing plan meant establishing a dissertation progress meeting with my advisor every Tuesday morning where I would submit one chapter for comments and pick up the prior week’s chapter to start editing.

In this way I was able to continuously write something new and edit previous chapters without getting stuck trying to write and edit the same section at the same time.

Establish your list of final figures and which chapters they will appear in.

Give yourself plenty of time to write drafts of each major chapter/section and enough time to edit them as well.Outline your dissertation and break it into chapters to draft and edit: Once you have a defense date set it’s time to work backwards to determine how much time you have to write and when key paperwork is due.Outline the major sections of your dissertation (introduction, materials and methods, data chapters, discussion, etc.) so that you know exactly what you are going to write.— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) October 3, 2018 The core planning strategy I would thus recommend doctoral, masters and undergraduate students is to engage in a combination of Gantt Chart Design and project backcasting techniques.The Gantt chart is a technique I learned in graduate school when I took project management courses.Don’t try to make the mistake of writing and editing the same section as you go, otherwise you may get stuck in a circle of trying to make one part perfect and fall behind on your overall writing progress which will leave you struggling to catch up as you approach the submission date.Embrace the ugly first draft of each section and move on to the next before coming back to edit individual chapters.Find yours and read it all the way through before starting to save yourself many headaches in the future.Another great resource are completed dissertations from your own program, so check out a few recent dissertations at the library or through the Pro Quest database!Many program offer seminars on writing up your dissertation; if you can, I highly recommend taking the time out of the lab to attend so that you are aware of the formatting expectations and requirements.Additionally, many programs post the style guide for dissertations on their website.


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